The best way to describe Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, is "Steampunk Treasure Island." In a pseudo-Victorian world populated by gas-powered airships, cabin boy Matt Cruse makes a name for himself aboard the Aurora by rescuing a hot air balloonist stranded above the Pacificus, who unfortunately dies shortly thereafter. One year later, his granddaughter Kate boards the ship, intent on seeing what he described in the balloon's log: winged, cat-like animals, a species never before seen. Throw in an attack by vicious pirate Vikram Szpirglas and a shipwreck on a remote, uncharted island, and you've got yourself all the ingredients for a fine adventure. Although there were several moments where coincidence played a bit too much into the plot, the characters (especially Kate) were engaging and the book highly entertaining. Oppel also included some nice bit of character development in between pirates and scientific discovery. Matt, whose father died three years previously by falling off the Aurora, discovers that he can't outrun grief, while heiress Kate has her sense of entitlement severely shaken. I am looking forward to reading the remaining volumes in the trilogy, Skybreaker and Starclimber.
Kenneth Oppel is a Canadian author. I can't think of many other Canadian books I've read (for children or adults), other than Anne of Green Gables. Maybe I should get on that.
Rather than reading the book, I listened to the audio version which, as always, was both a blessing and a curse. For example, I had no idea how to spell Szpirglas (it sounded like Spearglass) and had to look it up for this review. This audio edition was a full-cast production, but luckily most of the performances were well done, although they must have cautioned the younger actors to enunciate their "t"s, because they were awfully careful to do so, to the point where it was almost annoying. Still, full cast is sometimes better than having a single narrator who can't differentiate enough between characters (I'm looking at you, audio version of Twilight).
The book's website.